REALTOR® Spotlight: Darren Kittleson

From Farming to Acting to Real Estate


 August 14, 2006
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When Darren Kittleson left Wisconsin for Chicago, his dream was to be an actor. A dairy science major, Darren had been “bitten by the acting bug” while performing in several productions during college, and he wanted to continue acting.

After moving to Chicago, Darren found himself bartending on Rush Street between acting jobs. “One of my ‘regulars’ spent a lot of time and money in the establishment where I worked,” says Darren, “and when I found out what he did for a living, I thought I’d give it a try.”

Real estate sounded pretty good to the then 24-year-old as he saw it – good income and lots of free time – and he went to work for his former customer. “I learned quickly, and started selling lakefront property in Chicago’s North suburbs.”

He soon discovered that selling real estate wasn’t as easy as it looked, but he found himself once again bitten by the bug – this time the real estate bug. “Real estate is a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding,” he says. “Your success is based on what you put into it.” Darren returned to Wisconsin in 1993, where, after selling real estate for another franchise, he became one of the founding members and owner of the first Keller Williams Realty franchise in Madison. Today, Darren is operating principal and broker of four Keller Williams Realty offices in Madison, Columbus, and Wausau, Wisconsin.

Darren credits his success to several factors, one of which is his childhood in Wisconsin. “Growing up on a dairy farm and milking cows every day instills a pretty strong work ethic in a person,” he says.

Another factor that has contributed to his success is training. In fact, when asked for his advice to new REALTORS®, Darren says, “Go to training, go to training, go to training.” His first few years in real estate, he was called ‘the seminar guy.’ There were national trainers coming through Chicago all the time, so he attended training after training to soak up as much information as he could on how to succeed at a high level.

“I also recommend that new agents find someone they’d like to emulate and get to know him or her. I became friends with the highest-producing agent at my company and learned a lot about how she got where she was.

“And,” Darren says, “embrace technology. Our clients and customers are using it, and if we’re not up to speed, we’ll be left behind.”

Customer Service is the Key to Success

But probably the most important component of Darren’s success is the recognition that high-quality customer service is, above all, the best skill a REALTOR® can offer. “People will always buy and sell real estate, and there will always be a need for our services. In a shifting market,” as Darren describes the current market, “it’s the skill set of the agent that makes a difference.”

“The industry is under attack right now from politicians and the media. There’s lots of talk about commissions and monopolies and such. My concern is that perception becomes reality,” says Darren. “The challenge is to demonstrate great service and bring value to the transaction to quantify what REALTORS® do and to demonstrate the value we bring to the client in everything we do.”

What does Darren enjoy most about the profession? At this stage of his career he does a lot of training. “I enjoy watching people develop and watching their businesses grow. I train them to give great customer service, build relationships, and do what they say they’re going to do to build their business. If all of that’s in place, the sale happens.”

“When I started, training seemed to focus on massive lead generation. While that’s important, customer service is what gets you the repeat and referral business. For me, a transaction has to be “win-win,” or there’s no deal. It’s very satisfying to walk away from the table, content that you’ve done a good job,” says Darren.

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